NEW PORT RICHEY — The jury was picked, and the lawyers were ready to go.
Laurette Philipsen, 54, stood accused of using her employer's personal information to run up more than $100,000 in debt.
But on Wednesday morning, when opening arguments were supposed to begin in Circuit Judge Michael Andrews' courtroom, the defendant was nowhere to be found. It turns out she had checked herself into a mental health facility, her lawyer said.
With that, the trial was canceled, the jury was sent home and a warrant was issued to take Philipsen into custody.
According to authorities, while Philipsen was working as the office manager for Dr. Louise Templeman, she used that position and access to open bank accounts and take out loans in Templeman's name, leaving the doctor on the hook for some $160,000 in debt.
Philipsen, of 7240 Westwind Drive in Port Richey, was arrested last year and charged with scheming to defraud, criminal use of personal identification and grand theft. (The grand theft charge was later dropped.)
Authorities say it wasn't the first time Philipsen stole from her employer. In 2006, she was accused of stealing money where she worked. She later pleaded no contest to grand theft, was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay nearly $40,000 in restitution.
But if she thought that case was behind her, she was wrong. Andrews ruled this week that prosecutors can use that evidence to prove her guilt in the current case.
Now, if she's convicted, Philipsen faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years, her attorney said.
Her trial had been previously set for July 20. She checked into a hospital that day too, and it was postponed.
The new date is Sept. 14.
There's no chance she'll miss it. She'll be in jail until then.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.